ASU tech transfer group achieves high rankings in national survey

graphic representing research at ASU

Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), the exclusive intellectual property management and technology transfer organization of Arizona State University, has for the third year in a row achieved high rankings in innovation metrics collected by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM).

Among all institutions with more than $300 million in research, ASU landed in the top ten for invention disclosures (No. 3), startups (No. 7) and licensing agreements (No. 8) per $10 million in research expenditures. ASU researchers also received 48 U.S. patents in fiscal year 2013, high enough for a No. 12 ranking on the same expenditure-controlled measure. The results come from AUTM’s fiscal year 2013 survey of approximately 200 universities and research hospitals.

“These rankings are a testament both to ASU’s entrepreneurial faculty and AzTE’s commitment to the rapid dissemination of university discoveries and inventions into the marketplace,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU's senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development.

ASU and AzTE have achieved consistently strong results in the association's survey, despite the continued rapid growth in ASU’s research enterprise, even as many other schools have experienced funding retrenchments. From 2009 through 2013, ASU grew its research expenditures by almost 60 percent.

More research means more inventions available for potential commercialization, but there is a time lag between discovery and market application. Schools with steeper research funding increases have a difficult challenge maintaining their metrics in future years, a challenge AzTE has met by evolving its external marketing program and engaging broadly with ASU’s entrepreneurially-minded faculty.

Over the last five years, among research institutions that achieved at least $300 million in annual research expenditures, ASU was one of just four schools to achieve AUTM results in the top ten for licensing agreements, startups and invention disclosures per $10 million in research.

“ASU President Michael Crow’s vision for the New American University gave AzTE the mandate to upend the traditional tech transfer model,” said Augie Cheng, AzTE’s managing director and chief legal officer. “We engage with faculty through the entire university, operate on industry’s accelerated time frame, and offer substantial support to ASU inventors through our collaborations with Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU.”

AzTE has collected its own performance metrics for fiscal year 2014, including record numbers of invention disclosures (261), startups based on ASU intellectual property (12), licensing deals completed (90) and U.S. patents issued to ASU researchers (56). AUTM’s fiscal year 2014 comparative data will not be available until next autumn.

To date, more than 70 companies have been launched based on ASU discoveries. In just the last three years, these companies and their sub-licensees have attracted $163 million in funding from venture capital firms and other investors.

Companies launched out of ASU have long-term benefits to the Arizona economy. For instance, Molecular Imaging, an atomic force microscopy startup launched in 1993 by professor Stuart Lindsay and his former post-doctoral student Tianwei Jing, developed instruments used in nanotechnology research applications in life science, biotechnology, electrochemistry and material and polymer science.

Silicon Valley-based Agilent Inc. acquired Molecular Imaging in 2005. Today, Agilent AFM in Chandler is a significant employer of scientists and engineers, manufacturing and developing the instruments pioneered by Molecular Imaging.